Wednesday, 1 February 2017

PMQs Review 1st February 2017 - The Realpolitik vs Posturing Edition

Last week Theresa May went to see Donald Trump, newly inaugurated President of the United States. It was all a bit of a triumph, not least because Theresa gave Donald one of her hard stares and forced him to be nice about NATO. She even seized him by his little hands and helped the most powerful man in the world get over his fear of a couple of little steps.

It was widely agreed that it was all a bit of a triumph for our PM at the end of what had been a good week.

And then Donald signed that executive order. Suddenly Theresa had been very foolish to go and see the president so quickly. And how very dare she endanger the dignity of Her Majesty The Queen by having her commune with someone with such far right opinions. I mean good heavens, the last time she did that was when she had the Queen Mother over to lunch more than a decade ago. The Queen cannot possibly be expected to dine and be diplomatic to someone like Trump. It's perfectly okay for her to dine with the president of a murderous dictatorship in China, but the democratically elected of our vital ally?

Fantastically Chauncey opined that the PM is on the wrong side of history by inviting Trump to a state visit to these shores and possibly even to speak to the Houses of Parliament. This is the same Chauncey who has invited members of Hamas or the IRA to the Houses of Parliament. Oh and last year he joined in the hagiographies dedicated to the former dictator of Cuba, Fidel Castro.

This blog has been as critical of Trump's silly ban as anyone else. But can we please keep these things in perspective. One piece of posturing by a man who is to joined up thinking what Chauncey is to party loyalty does not a dictator or a fascist make. The ban is for three months and may never be properly introduced given the protests and the legal challenges. The response to it has been nearly as idiotic as the ban itself.

But this, unsurprisingly, was what Chauncey wanted to talk about. It is that rare subject, something on which he and his party are agreed, even if they are entirely delusional about it. That's Labour politics for you, at least when they are in opposition.

Chauncey got underway by referring to the sad loss last week of Tam Dalyell, a man who was frequently wrong about all kinds of things but always passionate. Unlike Chauncey he also had the intellect to match. Chauncey referred to Dalyell's book: The Importance of Being Awkward, which he recommended. The PM replied that she had not read the book but suspected that many of Chauncey's front bench had and had taken it to heart. Mrs May is really getting rather good at this off the cuff stuff.

Chauncey was being unusually pithy too, perhaps because many of us have lost the will to live during some of his quesions in previous weeks. His first question was brevity itself. She last week told us that she would speak frankly to the president he said. What happened?

The PM was having none of this. She pointed out that, though Chauncey and co don't like it, America is our most important ally and that building a relationship with the president is more important than what Chauncey would do. When he asked her what she knew about the travel ban she gave a full answer and said that she thought the ban was wrong, although she did point out that everyone knew that this was what Trump was going to do since he kept talking about it during the campaign. You can disagree with it but you cannot say he wasn't clear about it.

And Chauncey, the appeaser of various terrorists and inviter of anti-Semites, made a less than subtle allusion to Chamberlain and his piece of paper. It was a facile and stupid point from a man whose hypocrisy is as glaring as his fashion sense.

And then Chauncey mentioned the NHS. It is practically the law. On the trade talks with the US, what is the approach to the NHS going to be vis a vis US healthcare companies. The PM responded with a pithy if deliberately evasive line. The NHS is not for sale she said. Nobody said it was. But she might, albeit less pithily, have asked what was wrong with companies coming and working with the NHS to improve service? Privatisation is not evil. There is no reason why it should make any difference to anyone using a free service.

The PM was very good again today. Chauncey was even pretty good even if his questions were stupid and self serving. This all pointed up the distinction between the approaches of the two front benches. Normally though governments struggle to get across that governing involves tough choices. Fortunately Mrs May has Chauncey opposing her and his teenage protest politics. At the end she talked of what she has achieved by talking frankly with the president and of establishing a friendly, hand holding relationship. Chauncey, she said, would have achieved none of this. But at least he would have his supporters cheering him on. Fortunately for us all, the country is rather more realistic and so is our prime minister.

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